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Today’s youth: cleaner living, wholesome hobbies, socially conservative… Research

September 26, 2014 Graeme Codrington Future Trends, Generation X and Y, Generations, Parenting No Comments
Today’s youth: cleaner living, wholesome hobbies, socially conservative… Research

For over a decade now, we have been using our understanding of generational cycles to predict that today’s youth and young adults were likely to respond to social change by becoming more socially conservative. This would include reductions in hard drug use, reductions in anti-social behaviour, a more caring attitude towards to environment and generally more wholesome living.

The drug, sex and rock n roll fuelled young adulthood that many Boomers remember from the 1960s and 70s, and that Xers re-enacted in the 1990s, would be replaced by a very different looking generation.

Well, all around the world social science is showing that this is in fact happening. A recent article in The Telegraph went so far as to call them “Generation Yawn”. It’s actually an excellent article with great research to back it up. And I think you’ll be both amazed and uplifted by the information. Read it here.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. And all of life lives on normalised bell curves. So I am sure you know of a few very anti-social youths. But, in general, what is your experience of today’s young people? Does The Telegraph’s research ring true for you?

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Meet Gen Y: Five videos, ten minutes and a lot of insight

Meet Gen Y: Five videos, ten minutes and a lot of insight

Raymond de Villiers is TomorrowToday’s Gen Y guru. He works hard to understand today’s young people, and then make sense of them for you and me and our businesses. He’s packaged some of his insights into short “thought bullet” videos that I am sure will be valuable to you. Here are a few of my favourites (if you can’t see the videos embedded, just click the titles for a link to YouTube):

Meet Gen Y, and the two key forces that have shaped their world, and them:

Here’s a slightly longer extract of an hour long talk Raymond did recently on generations, in which he introduced Gen Y:

My favourite label for this generation actually helps to make sense of them: Digital Natives:

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Recent media mentions

Recent media mentions

Graeme Codrington has appeared in the media a few times in recent weeks. Here is a sampling of his contributions:

Speaking on Gen Y at the British Hospitality Association annual convention, Graeme focused attention on the impact that a younger generation is having on an industry that needs to employ significant numbers of young people to succeed. His presentation and contribution to a panel discussion was captured in the June/July 2014 edition of Hospitality Today (page 24-25): read it online here.

Graeme spoke at an Extended Knowledge Conference for Baloise Insurance Group in Germany recently. Here is a summary of the session.

Graeme was recently interviewed on CapeTalk 567 radio, on how to future-proof our children. Listen to the 15 minute interview on SoundCloud here.

A number of the TomorrowToday team have been featured on yourBusinessChannel’s Inside Finance TV channel. See their briefings videos here. We especially like the video on “Blowing Industries Apart”.

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[Video] Behaviours and values are generational

[Video] Behaviours and values are generational

Later today I am involved in an event where a number of young people are competing for a public speaking prize. I’ve been asked to do my talk on different generations, “Mind the Gap” as a ‘warm up act’ for this event. It’s one of my favourite topics, and still the talk I enjoy the most.

The heart of the message is simple: the era you were born in shaped you as much as other factors (like religion, culture, gender and personality). And the era that shaped you defines your generation as well. People roughly your age share a similar worldview to you. That’s why today’s young people feel so different from us who are a bit older.

People older and younger than you see the world in very different ways, and have different expectations of work, life and the world. By understanding the impact of different generations, inside and outside your organisation, you can improve sales, customer relationships, the productivity and interactions of your teams, and any other issue that depends on getting the most out of other people. And you can improve the interactions between young and old.

Here’s a video I recorded late last year that introduces these concepts just a bit more:

For more information, see TomorrowToday’s website on “Mind the Gap”.

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The Potential – and Problems – of Being Generation X

March 24, 2014 Graeme Codrington Generation X and Y, Generations, Talent, Video No Comments
The Potential – and Problems – of Being Generation X

Generation Xers are becoming middle aged. And some of them are not doing it in style. They’re also causing some chaos in their workplaces with their emphasis on family, flexibility and their own goals above those of their companies. In this brief video, I outline some of the potential – and problems – of being a Gen Xer:

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Five secrets for engaging and retaining Gen Y talent

February 5, 2014 Dean van Leeuwen Generation X and Y, Generations, Talent, The workplace No Comments
Five secrets for engaging and retaining Gen Y talent

Studies show that the current crop of Gen Y talent,  will have had up to 12 different jobs and the majority of Gen Y professional graduates  (doctors, engineers, architects lawyers etc.) will no longer be working in their chosen career of study having had up to three career changes. Overall ninety-one percent of Gen Y’s expect to stay in a job for less than three years

All this job hopping madness means big headaches for talent managers and heads of HR after all  losing an employee after a year or two, means wasting precious time and resources on training and development,  before that investment pays off. Our research at TomorrowToday has identified five things your company can do to attract and retain top Gen Y talent. Our work around the world and engagement with thousands of senior leaders every years enables us to gain an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of this job-hopping “slacker” generation and we always dive deep when we discover a company that is keeping both Gen Y and Gen X talent for seven years or more. Here are the secrets to keeping and engaging Gen Y talent:

1) Forget vision and mission. What is your quest? Story-telling is increasingly important leadership skill and Gen Y want to know the story behind what your company really stands for.  If they are going to spend the majority of their waking lives working for you, what they do and what the company does has to be meaningful in a broader more societal context.

Now most businesses have a vision or mission that looks something like this:

To be the leader…selling the best…delivering  outstanding service… commitment to profit maximisation to our shareholders…being the most efficient in everyth… blah blah blah blah blah  YAWN!

At which stage you have bored every Gen Y employee to death and they have already redeployed their curriculum vitae. However, If you want to capture the mind, heart and engagement of talented Gen Y you need to appeal to their sense of spirit, their sense of adventure and most importantly their cohort’s driving sense of contributing to causes that have meaning in the world.

As the French adventurer and novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupery said:

“If you want to build a flotilla of ships, you don’t sit around talking about carpentry. No, you need to set people’s souls ablaze with visions of exploring distant shores.”

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Five New Year’s Resolutions Every Leader Should Make (HBR Blog)

As we head into a new year, an article on the Harvard Business Review blog network caught my eye. It went beyond those pithy list type emails and Facebook status updates you get at this time of year, with some real insight backed by research. The focus is on five key actions leaders can take to make a real difference in their organisations, especially with regards to talent development.

We all know how vital talent development is: finding, attracting, nurturing, developing and retaining talent are absolutely key to success in the world of work right now. More than ever before. The author of this article in HBR, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, correctly argues though that the emphasis at the moment should be on DIVERSE TALENT. A good talent pool is not enough: a good, diverse talent pool is essential. This is especially true for multinational companies. You can read her full article with all the additional research included (it’s worth well it!) at the HBR blog site here, or a summary of her five leadership actions below:

1. Be more inclusive. What does it take to consistently drive growth and innovation? The answer, according to CTI’s latest research, is a diverse workforce managed by leaders who cherish difference, embrace disruption, and foster a speak-up culture. Leaders have long recognized that an inherently diverse workforce “matches the market” and confers a competitive edge by recognizing the unmet needs of consumers and clients like themselves. But ideas from outliers too often are ignored or squelched because their originators don’t resemble the paradigms of corporate power — Caucasian, male, heterosexual, and from a similar educational and socioeconomic background. Leaders who promote a culture of diverse talent — whether in their team or throughout their organization — where everyone feels free to volunteer opinions or propose solutions that contradict convention unlock the full spectrum of innovative capacity.

2. Create pathways for sponsorship. What can help talented women, gays, and people of color spread their wings and succeed? The answer is sponsorship — a strategic workplace partnership between those with power and those with potential. Unlike mentors, who act as sympathetic sounding boards, sponsors are people in positions of power who work on their protégé’s behalf to clear obstacles, foster connections, assign higher-profile work to ease the move up the ranks, and provide aircover and support in case of stumbles. Sponsors have a significant impact on the career traction of their female and multicultural protégés: 68% of women with sponsors say they are satisfied with their rate of advancement, compared with 57% of those without sponsors; 53% of sponsored African-Americans and 55% of Asians are satisfied with their career progress, compared with, respectively, 35% and 30%. Those numbers add up to employees who are more committed, more engaged, and more likely to attract similar talent.

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Preparing for Generation Z (or whatever you’d like to call them)

November 8, 2013 Dean van Leeuwen Future Trends, Generations, Newsletter 1 Comment


child crossed legs video game

They have variously been named the “Homeland” generation, the “Re-generation” and the “Centennial” generation – but at the moment, we know them best (and rather lazily) as Generation Z.   In the US, this generation is often held to have been born from 1995 onwards. However, Neil Howe, joint author of “Generations” and “The Fourth Turning”, the original academic works on Generational Theory, believes first were not born until the early 2000s.  This latter seems more in line with the usual 20 year generational cycle and tends to be our thinking here at TomorrowToday – but it’s not an exact science, and there will be a blurred boundary on the cusp with Gen Y, wherever it falls.

Whatever the exact dates, within a few short years, this generation will be reaching the workplace for the first time.  So what do we know of them – and what can we do to prepare?

The defining experience of this generation is its upbringing during the Great Recession. This is likely to make them quite conservative and conformist, because what they crave is security.  They may therefore be more inclined to work for a big corporation than members of Gen Y, who are too busy following their ‘passion’ to think of their future. When choosing their career path, which many of them are doing now, this generation may be more pragmatic and inclined to choose ‘safe’ than their entrepreneurial Gen Y predecessors. They may not be particularly materialistic, as they will have learnt from their recession-hit parents that possessions aren’t everything – but they may have to repay student debt, which will also propel them towards careers that generate a steady income.  However, with the workplace increasingly adapting to more fluid workforces, they may still have to accept many company and career changes in their working life – although they will be expecting this and will plan for it.  It’s unlikely to phase them, as they will be expert multi-taskers and will already have a childhood of varied experiences behind them.

In “How to Think Like the Next Generation”, Penelope Trunk identifies another interesting trait of Generation Z.  Because technology and connectivity have been present for them since they were able to play on mummy’s smartphone for the first time, it holds no mystique or novelty value.  It simply is.  It’s likely that this generation will be far less obsessed with pushing the boundaries of what can be done with technology and rather simply treat it as a tool.  Just take a look at the 80s-looking graphics on Minecraft to understand that fancy stuff is not their technology driver!  This may make life simpler for businesses to adapt their IT to ‘bring your own’, rather than trying to keep up with Gen Y’s constant need to be ahead of the game.

The Curve Report identifies 5 main factors in “The Z Factor” that it believes will define Generation Z:

The Least Connected Generation, Ever

Despite being technologically hyper-connected, Zs will have far less in common with their peers and neighbours than members of previous generations did (and consequently will have a harder time finding others “like them.”

XXX Ideals (Xposure, Xperience, Xpertise)

Zs are largely (although not exclusively) the children of Generation X, a cohort defined by its independence.  They will be encouraging their children to try out new experiences and emphasise depth of knowledge over exam grades and degree choice. Remember, Generation X is now watching the accomplished and well-educated Gen Y struggle to find work and build their lives.

Double Vision and Photographic Memories

As the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent, Zs will develop double vision and “see” a digital layer in all they encounter.

Gen(der) Neutral

Generation Z’s have been born into an environment where dads are truly hands on, where it’s cool for guys to bake and where girls playing football is old news.  Gender difference will still exist of course, but there will be far more opportunities and far less judgement.

Forever Young

One in three children born today are expected to live to 100 – and many could reach 120.  Generation Z will have to plan for this – and it may mean that they have more time for all aspects of their life.  Education, leaving home, settling down – what’s the hurry?

As businesses, we can expect to see a far more self-aware population of young people with an unprecedented understanding of their skills and talents and a pragmatic approach to career, life and technology.  Sounds great, but we can be sure there will be challenges ahead and some interesting clashes with Gen Y bosses!

What do you think?  If you have young children, what do you see in them that will shape them as future employees (and employers)?

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Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?

pensionersThe famous lyric from the Beatles song of 1967 has moved from an individual plea to a loved one, to a more general appeal to society.  A lot has happened between 1967 and now: man has landed on the moon, the Communist Soviet Union has disintegrated, almost everyone has amazing technology at their finger tips and we are now living longer than ever before.

If you were an 18 year old in 1967 you would be one of the Baby Boomers joining the UK workforce for the first time.   You are now 64 and possibly looking forward to your pension and retirement.  The state pension age has been stuck at 65 for men and 60 for woman for that person’s whole life.  Whilst the rest of the world has changed at an alarming rate, the “Old Age Pension” age has remained the same.

The opportunity to be a retired pensioner is a relatively recent occurrence.  Prior to the Old Age Pension Act of 1908 there was no state help and it was looked at as being semi villainous to be old with no money or means to support yourself.  You either begged, starved, or if you were lucky (or maybe unlucky) you ended up in the Workhouse.  However, this act only came into force if you were over 70 and without means of over £31.50…….per year!  It wasn’t until the National Insurance Act of 1946 that we saw the introduction of a comprehensive social security system that covered unemployment, sickness and retirement, as we know today.

We all know that there is an ageing population problem, but what is it and what does it mean?  Let’s have a look at some of the data that is freely available at the UK Office of National Statistics.

In 1967 the life expectancy for a man was 69.1.  This meant that a man, on average, only lived for four years after reaching the state retirement age of 65.  In 2010 the life expectancy for a man in England had grown to 78.9, almost an eight-year increase in only 43 years.  If, however, you reached your 65th birthday in 2010 you were expected to live until a whopping 83.4.  This means that over the last 43 years a man has been living on average one extra year for every 3-5 years lived – really astonishing.

The trend looks to carry on, with the expectation that 33% of children born in 2012 will live to 100.  In 2012 there were 14,500 centenarians – by only 2035 it is forecast that there will be 110,000.

The actuaries have got their figures hopelessly wrong in the past.  Private and public pension promises that were made to workers cannot be fulfilled.  Bear in mind that in developed countries, 60% of the cost of an average pension is paid by the state.

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Mirrors, cameras, social media and cultural evolution – Seth Godin

Mirrors, cameras, social media and cultural evolution – Seth Godin

Earlier today, Seth Godin posted an interesting piece on his blog about mirrors, cameras and cultural evolution. Read it at his blog or below.

He points out that a few centuries ago nobody would have known what their “true” reflection looked like as their were no mirrors available. Today, nobody is scared of mirrors. But some people are scared of cameras. They might not feel scared, but the way they act when a camera is pointed at them indicates otherwise.

And he then pushes his point to the issue of social media, and how some people still fear it. This is a fascinating insight in the same week that Domo and CEO.com released a report saying that only 19 out of 500 of America’s top CEOs are active on social media (only 28 of them have Twitter accounts at all). I am writing a separate blog entry on that statistic (it will be released later this week, here). But for now, I’ll leave you with Seth’s thoughts about cultural evolution. And the fact that it’s inevitable.

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Learning is changing – and businesses will need to change too

Education chalkboardThere is a pattern to the disruption of industries – change happens slowly, with a few early-adopters taking a technology and innovating, but not always in the optimum way.  Then it happens quickly – and a whole industry can come tumbling down.  Take digital music, which had been around a few years before Apple took the technology, reached the masses and brought the music industry to its knees. The same happened with digital photography – which gained an early foothold, but not until the smartphone came along did consumer behaviour completely change in a way that the photographic industry failed to predict.

Massive open online courses (MOOCS) will disrupt university education. Distance learning courses have been around for years, and have a particularly strong history in the UK, with the Open University founded back in 1969. But only now is there a convergence of trends that will cause an explosion in online education and change our university system forever.  The recession has hit middle-class parents hard and low income families harder, right at a time when university fees are rising. Technology has raced on, to the point where institutions can deliver a sophisticated degree programme at a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree.

Coursera partners with 62 Universities from 14 countries to deliver free online education to anyone who wants it. In only a year it has attracted 3.2 million global users and, earlier this year, has had 5 of its courses given college degree status.

Udacity has a similar mission to deliver high quality, low cost education. Founded by Google X founder Sebastian Thrun, it is a heavy-hitting entrant to the educational space and has recently collaborated with the Georgia Institute of Technology to launch an Online Master of Computer Science degree that is making US Universities twitchy.  As Time Magazine says “Georgia Tech’s announcement….is a game changer that will have other top-tier universities that offer degrees in computer science scrambling to compete.”

In the next few years, universities will have to demonstrate that their on-campus offer really delivers an education and experience beyond that which online courses can deliver. The danger will be that only the wealthy can afford them. An earlier, bigger, danger is a massive negative economic impact for those universities who are behind the curve or don’t have the ‘name’ or financial backing as high end degrees become more accessible through online learning. We will surely see many smaller and less prestigious universities disappear within the next 20 years.

The combination of this disruption to the education system with the increasing automation of knowledge careers and the influence of the value system of Generation X mean that the traditional campus-based university degree may return to a position where only the very academic or wealthy few will make the investment.

Generation X parents have been hit hard by the recession.  They are relatively happy with risk and will be seeing and living the changing nature of education and work. They won’t the feel the need to encourage their children to go make a huge investment in a campus degree if there is no clear benefit.  Even if their family is wealthy enough to afford it, Generation Z may well agree with their parents that the money is better used to fund online learning, a deposit for a flat, or invest in a business idea.  Entrepreunership will become a career-choice in itself.

The impact on business will be that employers will have to look harder for talent.  Or at least, the relatively straightforward ‘milk round’ will no longer be a viable source of candidates, as graduates will be not be gathered in number in central locations.  On the other hand, there will be more graduates from prestigious universities as they reach a larger online student body, so employers will need to find new ways of differentiating between them.  Many of the brightest young people may not even be graduates. The whole landscape will change and businesses will have to reshape around it in order to manage diverse streams of candidates. The “one size fits all” graduate programme is likely to become a thing of the past as businesses are forced to integrate new young employees from many different attainment backgrounds – and those employees expect an individualised career path tailored to their talents and objectives.

It’s a lot of change and it will be a challenging transition.  But businesses and employees alike will gain a huge amount from the better recognition and understanding of the diversity of talents, backgrounds and life goals that are the reality of human existence, and not always fully represented by a college degree.


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When will they Revolt?

iStock_000019353873XSmallIn 1968 it seemed that the whole world was in dispute or turmoil. Many of the disputes were student led; there were student protests in Poland against the oppressive Communist Government, there were protests and riots in France that ending up involving workers that took France to the brink of revolution against the wartime hero Charles de Gaulle and his right wing government.  There were protests from places as diverse as Mexico, Brazil and even in conformist Germany.  There were clashes in the UK after Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech and real fears that the Britain would be led to the brink like France.  There was the brutal stamp down by the Soviets when they sent in over 750,000 troops to quell the largely peaceful “Prague Spring” that was a protest against the Soviet puppet control of the then Czechoslovakia.  And there was of course huge unrest in the world super power of the USA – student protests that started in Carolina spread all over the country and became a civil rights protest against the government.  There was even a national teachers strike.  The demonstrations initially started peacefully, but escalated into full civil riots especially after Martin Luther King was assassinated.  1968 was a pivotal year in the Vietnam conflict.  It was the year of the massive conflict at Khe Sanh, where American troops foolhardily tried to fight a pitched battle against Viet Cong forces.  The Tet offensive took place, which made it clear that America was not in control even in Southern Vietnam.  There were massacres of women, children and old people at Ha My and My Lai that would shock the world.  This was the year when popular opinion changed and there were demonstrations all over America against the war.  There were even demonstrations outside the US Embassy in London.  Wherever you looked there was uproar and the call for change.

 It is often referred to as “The year that rocked the world”.  So why were the young people revolting?  This of course makes you want to say one of the oldest jokes in the book, but of course there is a serious side.  The young people felt that the “old guard” were not in tune with their ideals, ethics and values.  These young people have gone on to become known as the Baby Boomers.  They weren’t as compliant as their parents, they would not put up with the oppression of being told what to do by people that had very little in common with themselves.  These were what we would call today human rights issues – the cry went out that all people are are equal, so why should I have to suffer under the yoke of a foreign administration for the colour of my skin, or be sent to a war that I think is wrong?

This was certainly an idealistic revolution taking place across the globe, led by the power of free speech.  But something that is often overlooked is that technology had a major part to play in the process.  1968 was the year when the amount of TVs in the world reached 200 million.  Almost wherever you were, ideas and information could be viewed by people in their own homes or that of a neighbour.  In America by 1968, 95% of homes had TVs.  The sale of colour sets had rocketed from only 9.6% of TVs sold in 1966 to over 24%.  The pictures of students and blacks being brutally assaulted by white “redneck” policeman at American college campuses and in the streets horrified the majority of people.  There was the first interracial kiss when Captain Kirk kissed Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek.  These pictures led to uproar and great divisions within society.  Public opinion firmly changed in relation to the Vietnam War when the famous Eddie Adams photograph showing a Viet Cong officer being executed by a Southern Vietnamese police chief were beamed around the world via magazines, newspapers and TV.

Young people of today are revolting though, just not in what we call the western world. The Arab Spring saw real change in Yemen, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and demonstrations in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain and, of course, in Syria that have subsequently mutated into a brutal civil war.  The demonstrations and bloodshed continue in Egypt after the new administration was found to be incompetent and no better than the previous government.  In relatively westernised Turkey, there have been disputes that started from a building project that proposed to fell trees in a beloved city square.  Bulgarians have reacted against the corruption and cronyism of their government.  In Indonesia the people have rejected higher fuel prices and in Brazil there have been massive demonstrations and violence that originated from a rise in bus fares. The interesting point, however, is that these people are not your normal ‘trouble makers” or rent a mobs that we saw in the 80’s, activated by Unions or other powerful groups. These people, by and large, are middle class and well educated.  In Brazil, 77% of the protesters have further education, 53% are under 25 and 71% have never demonstrated before. They are protesting for change to governments and systems that they believe are not fair, equal or in tune with their beliefs.

This new wave of protestation is being instigated and activated by technology, just like in 1968.   medium of communication today is social media.  The speed at which information and images can be sent around a city, country and the planet is now instant.  Some of these messages are proven to be wrong in hindsight, but anyone with a smartphone can widely spread fact and fiction.  This wave is happening not just in oppressive areas of the world, but also notably in democracies. Democracies, by their very nature, allow freedom of speech and protestation and have a vested interest in making change; otherwise leaders will be voted out.  It seems inevitable that we will sooner or later see protests from young people in the streets of first world countries like America and Britain, once they become disenfranchised with the politicians and businessmen that are in charge of their world – unless there are huge changes made.

Most of the people “in charge” are those very same people – the Baby Boomers – that called so vehemently and effectively for change in 1968.  It will be hugely ironic if they find themselves on the receiving end of a new wave of protests because they have failed to make changes that take into consideration that the young people of today have their own futures to look after.

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Primary Blog contributors

The main contributors to this blog are:

Dr Graeme Codrington, co-founder of TomorrowToday, author, speaker and expert on the changing world of work
Dean van Leeuwen, co-founder and CEO of TomorrowToday UK & Europe, speaker, consultant and Chief Intellectual Adventurer
Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday South Africa, leadership development guru, speaker and author
Professor Nick Barker, director of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii, leadership development expert
Markus Kramer, marketing director for Aston Martin and brand building expert
Keith Holdt, Visionary Enabler of business growth and change, currently works for LDC as an investment executive.
Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer, Manchester Business School; Executive education specialist.
Dawna MacLean, expert on fostering meaningful change and creating authentic experiences through transparent and trusted partnerships.

Click here for a full list of contributors

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